Inside Britain’s Sharia courts

This article describes a new BBC documentary that goes undercover in Britain’s Islamic courts. The documentary reveals some shocking discrimination suffered by women. In Leyton Islamic Sharia Council, the oldest and most active such council in the country, scholars hear about 50 cases a month, most of them marital disputes. Nine out of 10 cases brought forth are by women. No one knows how many there are in Britain today, although some estimate at least 85. Although they cannot enforce their judgments, these councils control the lives of many Muslims. But according to the article the pressure from Sharia councils and the community they serve is causing suffering as islamic rulings are not always in the interests of women and can run counter to British law. There are more worrying cases involving domestic violence and children. The court in Leyton is reported to have said that with children if a marriage ends, the question of access to both parents is crucial. Safety is paramount and any UK court order must be followed. Sharia courts are putting women at risk of violence from abusive husbands, the Crown Prosecution Service has warned. The courts, which issue rulings according to Islamic law, have been found to be giving Muslim women advice which experts warned may place them in danger. Nazir Afzal, the head of the Crown Prosecution Service in the north-west of England, who is a Muslim and who has spoken out against honour-based domestic violence, said he was “disappointed but not surprised” by what he was shown.